Returning to an Ireland in the grip of recession, middle-aged watchmaker Fred (Colm Meaney) finds himself falling through the cracks. Unemployed, and homeless, Fred finds himself drowning in petty bureaucracy, unable to access the housing or unemployment benefits he needs. Depressed and reduced to living in his car, Fred finds himself bonding with homeless junkie Cathal (Colin Morgan) who’s also homeless.
Estranged from his family, the motor-mouthed Cathal lives in his car at the other side of the car park from Fred. The two men become friends and, in a neat inversion of movie cliché, the younger Cathal takes the older Fred under his wing, teaching him how to survive and get by on the streets as Fred comes to take the place of Cathal’s estranged father, trying to get him off heroin and interceding with the gangsters to whom he owes money. He also awakens Fred’s constipated humanity, teaching him how to have fun again and encouraging the older man to pursue a relationship with nice Scandinavian lady and obvious plot device Jules (Milka Ahiroth).
Tragedy awaits however as the increasingly desperate Cathal’s drug abuse spirals out of control and the local dealers circle for the kill…
Like its characters, Byrne’s Parked is going nowhere. Unlike its two protagonists however, it’s quite content to stay static. Essentially a May to December bromance between Fred and Cathal, nothing much happens, certainly nothing you haven’t seen a hundred times. It’s a little glum, a little downbeat. It has a plinky-plonky soundtrack that makes you want to tear your own ears off, Fred’s tentative romance with Jules feels unrealistic (so what if he’s showering at the leisure centre, the man lives in his car! He’s still gonna be a bit whiffy) and there are far, far, too many heavy-handed clock metaphors in the film. Yes, we know Fred used to make watches and fix clocks but does every character in the film need their own clock metaphor? The film works however because of the two fantastic performances by its leads.
Often the brash, irascible, mercurial presence in everything from TV’s Star Trek to The Commitments to Con Air, Meaney here plays against type delivering a restrained, almost passive performance as the lonely, isolated Fred whose slow blossoming is the heart of the film, the only glimpse of his familiar d*ckwad roles coming when he batters a couple of gangsters with a torch.
The real revelation though is Colin Morgan. Pale with a mouth full of teeth like brown tombstones, he’s almost unrecognisable from the clean-cut teen wizard of BBC1’s Merlin, delivering an intense, committed, spontaneous performance, inhabiting Cathal’s sallow, greasy skin, soulful eyes constantly scoping the angles.
Touching, sad and funny without being mawkishly sentimental, Parked is a likable but ultimately forgettable walk on the mild side.
Colm Meaney, Colin Morgan, Milka Ahiroth